Odd bit of local news - no more nude unicycling for money

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Corvallis drops ban on buskers

By Becky Waldrop
Staff Writer

CORVALLIS – For years, musicians playing a guitar or singing in a way that would lead people to give them money were in violation of the city’s ordinance against begging.

Buskers, British slang for strolling entertainers, were banned in Corvallis.

Then, last fall, a musician’s question to a city councilor prompted a review of city laws and started a discussion of whether this form of street entertainment should be allowed.

For several months, city officials talked with business people, parks officials, police, musicians and lawyers, and then a new law was written. Officials had to define what sort of entertainment to permit. Acts involving nudity, and bicycles or unicycles were ruled out. But magicians, music and dancing are allowed.

Last Monday, the Corvallis City Council unanimously approved an ordinance encouraging busking in the Riverfront Commemorative Park.

City Council president Rob Gandara, a musician and member of the local band Gaita Garbanzo, championed the request through the public process.

The revised law reflects the city’s motto of enhancing community livability, said Gandara. It also takes Corvallis another step closer to becoming the mid-valley’s entertainment hub.

“By looking at some of our city policies and connecting them with the values of our community, we can affect the quality of life,” Gandara said.

At Riverfront Park Saturday afternoon, Jim and Elaine Kirby of Mount Hood watched their granddaughter, Hannah, 4, play in the fountain. The Kirbys often visit Corvallis to see their daughter, Rachel, and they welcomed the idea of street performers.

“It will be fun, especially if they have stuff to entertain the kids,” Elaine Kirby said.

The new law permits busking between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. in the park only. Entertainers are allowed to open a guitar case to accept payment, but contributions must be voluntary. Groups are limited to five people, and buskers must maintain 50 feet between each other.

Busking involving the use of fire, fireworks or explosives is not permitted, unless necessary permits are obtained first.

City Attorney Jim Brewer said the law prohibiting buskers was last revised in 1982. But it’s likely that the original law dates back to the 1950s, the era when most modern city ordinances were written.

In revising the law, Brewer said he found it to be a lot more work to allow something than to prohibit it.

“There has been quite a bit of discussion for things like … if we’re going to allow this and have this along the river, how does that dovetail with sidewalk cafes,” Brewer said.

The city sought comments from various commissions, organizations and other interested parties. The consensus: A little entertainment while walking or dining on the riverfront would be nice.

Corvallis Police Capt. Jon Sassaman helped revise the anti-begging ordinance to allow busking. He said there’s a difference between begging and busking. Begging is when a person puts himself or herself on display in a way that might compel someone to way to give him or her money.

“Busking is simply where people can offer entertainment such as singing, dancing or playing a musical instrument as inducement to giving alms,” Sassaman said. “You envision two or three people playing guitars, singing as people walk by… .”

The changes do not mean that people will be allowed to bicycle, skateboard or unicycle on park lawns, or become a noise nuisance. In all the years busking was prohibited, Sassaman said he wasn’t aware of any citations issued.

A violation under the new law would result in a class C misdemeanor.

Gandara already plays his Spanish bagpipes in the park, and now that the law has been changed, he said he’d open up his instrument case. During difficult economic times, a person could earn extra money this way, he figures.

That’s not to say that the Corvallis City Council president will be quitting his job at Hewlett-Packard Co. anytime soon. But he isn’t ruling out the possibility of taking a few days off this summer to play in the park.

Re: Odd bit of local news - no more nude unicycling for money

shall we start a mass internet campaign to get unicycles allowed?